This is the latest in our first-person view of the Tremblant International Blues Festival, happening now in the beautiful Mount Tremblant, Canada! Charlie, a good friend of the American Blues Scene and dedicated blues fan, is reporting from the trenches.
Another outstanding day in the Laurentians! Blue skies, 80 degrees and nary a cloud to be seen.
Tuesday’s workshop featured Johnny Sansone, fresh off an appearance with his friends The Royal Southern Brotherhood the previous evening. Featuring his unique harmonica holder, which consisted of an Electrolux attachment with a mike taped into the neck, he played left-handed Telecaster guitar to accompany himself.
He told several hilarious stories, one being how he cut the wires to an old jukebox in the family basement, and connected them to his harmonica mike wires. Best tone ever he said, but anybody that wanted to jam had to come to his house! He also related how he recorded a cd in his living room with Anders Osborne, to help lift people’s spirits after Hurricane Irene. He gave it away, but then people would ask him, “How do I play it with no cd player or electricity?”. When asked what type of mike he uses he quoted Little Walter — “whatever one’s not in the pawnshop!”
He played two of his songs that were nominated for Blues Music Award’s Song Of The Year — “Poor Man’s Paradise” and “The Lord Is Waiting And The Devil Is Too”, which won in 2012. He also promised to bring his accordian next time. Myself and many others can’t wait!
With the overlapping times and music on 4 stages, it’s hard to see everyone. But I did make it to the second half of the Alec Fraser/Mike Daly duo, especially since Alec and I determined last year that we could be related through my great, great, (…) grandfather Simon Fraser (don’t know when the spelling changed). He was the first Canadian to search for the Northwest passage. Alec was the long time bassist for Jeff Healy, and has produced multiple albums for people including Jack de Keyser, Ben Racine and Harrison Kennedy. He also has a unique stand-up bass set up where he holds a snare brush with his hand, and while plucking strings he hits a drum head that protrudes from under the strings. Joined by Monkeyjunk’s Steve Marriner on harmonica, they wrapped with the classics “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.” Check out their new album of all original material “The Whole Fam Damily”.
Johnny Sansone did his second show of the day at one of the smaller stages, and he was joined by Monkeyjunk’s Steve Marriner (this guy is everywhere!). He said he doesn’t do covers because Original music satisfies! I loved the line in one of his songs; You can’t mix happiness with love and lies. He pulled out the chromatic harmonica for the powerful tune Invisible, about homeless people. He also remarked he’d called home to be told it was pouring there, and he hated to tell them how beautiful it was here. And thanks Johnny for playing my request Sinking Ship from his latest cd. Can’t wait to see him tomorrow night backed by Monkeyjunk.
Then it was up the hill for new guitar wonderkid Conor Gains from Cambridge, Ontario. He roared through a set of originals from his debut album, mixed with classics like “In My Time Of Dyin'” and “I Can’t Be Satisfied” (is everybody doing this song?). He ended by shooting a video of the crowd so he could remember the great time he and his band had.
There was no room to be had for the highly anticipated set by Australian Kim Churchill. Playing barefoot so he could use his feet to control a huge array of guitar and harmonica effects, as well as pound his 3 pedaled bass
drum for a variety of percussion effects, he displayed dazzling fingerpicking, with a beautiful, warm voice that one minute sounded like an English troubadour, the next a Delta hurricane. A one man band and then some! His originals (and pardon me Kim if I got the names wrong), “It’s 3 A.M.”, “Smile As You Go Home” and “Truest” Intentions stood out and he finished with Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” sandwiched inside his song “The Early”. People screamed their disapproval he had to stop, but he was off to play for a VIP reception for April Wine, appearing later in the evening.
Everyone was looking forward to the evening’s first act, Monkeyjunk. The Ottawa based act is on a roll, winning the Best New Artist Blues Music Award in 2011, and a Juno (Canada’s Grammy) for their latest “To Behold”, on Stony Plain Records. The crowd was up and rocking right from the get-go, letting drummer Matt Sobb, guitarist Tony D., and multi-instmentalist Steve Marriner know they could do no wrong. Steve also had an Electolux device to hold his harmonica, perhaps picking it up from his mentor Johnny Sansone, who appeared with them for the song Johnny and Janey. The songs “Mother’s Crying” and “Right Now” stood out for me. These guys are definitely taking blues in new directions, and I can’t wait to see where the road takes them.
Popa Chubby was the big headliner in more ways than one. After a 10 1/2 hour drive up from NYC, he was ready to rock the mountain. Beginning playing seated in a chair, he soon threw off his hat and glasses and stood up to
strangle his guitar and and exhort the crowd to have as much fun as he was. She Loves Everybody (But Me) and Pound of Flesh from his latest cd Back To NYC were mixed with Chubby favorites like “Hey Joe”, “Universal Breakdown” and “Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out”. Being in Canada, he ended with a 10 minute version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, which earned him a standing ovation from the overflow crowd.
Amazingly, after signing autographs, he jumped in his Honda Civic and headed back home! A blistering show everyone talked about for days. But man, were my ears ringing!!!
Half way home, but I don’t want to ever leave!